There are lots of people who unwrapped shiny new eReaders over this past Christmas weekend. This blog is largely written for those who are new to the world of ebooks and e-reading devices, so I try to help folks out with learning the basics.
Perhaps the best place to start might be with my post of eBook Terms for Newbies. That will help you get familiar with some commonly used terms that you might not have been aware of before. Making yourself comfortable with those terms will help you when you start trying to follow instructions for downloading ebooks and using your eReader.
Last year I wrote a post titled “You got an eBook Reader as a gift. Now what?” It gives you a solid set of guidelines to use when learning how your new eReader functions. I really recommend reading that if you’re using your first eReader. The information will help you avoid many of the common problems that people run into, and it should also generally help you learn how to work with your eReader.
My “Top 5 Reasons Why Your eBook Isn’t Opening” is a good place to look when you’re having trouble. It covers hardware issues, software issues, and DRM issues.
If you need help with Adobe Digital Editions, or would just like to learn more about it before you use it, check out these posts:
Adobe Digital Editions — An overview of authorizing and using the program.
How To Authorize Your eReader for Adobe Digital Editions — Step by step instructions.
ACSM Files — What they are and how to work with them. Hint: they are not ebooks!
How To Change the Authorized Adobe ID — Learn how to switch the Adobe ID that your computer is authorized with.
If you’re using a new iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, and you want to read ebooks with Adobe DRM (that were not purchased through Apple’s iBooks) I recommend Bluefire Reader. My Bluefire Reader post has really detailed step-by-step instructions for how to authorize it and how to transfer your ebooks to your device through iTunes.
Likewise, if you’ve got a new Android toy (smartphone or tablet) you can take a look at my post about Aldiko, the recommended app for ebook reading on Android.
If you’ve got pretty much anything other than a new Kindle, you can download some free ebooks here. That’s a great way to test out your eReader since if you make a mistake it won’t cost you anything.
Overall, here are my most basic recommendations for using a new eReader:
1. Learn which ebook formats your device is able to read.
2. Before buying any ebooks, make sure the website you’re using can support your eReader.
3. Take a moment to read your manual and learn the basic functionality of your eReader.
4. Always follow posted instructions! Don’t skip anything.
Holiday shopping has (ridiculously) already started here in early November. I’m pretty sure that a lot of eReaders will be given as gifts this year, what with the newly released models and price competition. With that in mind, I thought I’d compile a list of useful reviews about popular eReaders. I will try and do another list about tablet-style devices later — this one is just for the newest E-Ink eReaders. (Update: see Tablet Review Roundup)
Kobo eReader Touch Reviews
Engadget — “For those looking for a device strictly for reading, the new Kobo is a nice little option. It’s small enough to slip into a pocket, can do more with a PDF than the competition, and at $129, it’s $10 cheaper than both the Nook and Kindle WiFi. There’s also nothing in the way of social functionality on the device, but we didn’t really miss it. Ultimately, however, the eReader Touch Edition has one fatal flaw: it’s not as good as the Nook.”
TechCrunch — “Superficially similar to the new Nook, but the Kobo is perhaps even simpler, and the form factor is slightly more book-like. If you don’t need 3G or the other perks of the Kindle ecosystem, and just want a straightforward e-book reading device, this Kobo could be a good match.”
PCMag — “The Kobo eReader Touch Edition brings a nice touch interface and a small footprint to Kobo’s ebook reader line, but its performance and design don’t measure up to its best competitors.”
PCWorld — “It’s rare to find an inexpensive product that also introduces innovation into its category. And yet that’s exactly what Kobo Books’ Kobo eReader Touch Edition does. The company’s third-generation e-reader, this model is the smallest and lightest 6-inch E Ink e-reader currently available.”
ZDNet — “Kobo’s new touchscreen-enabled ebook reader may actually beat the new Nook as the best dedicated ebook reader.”
Wired — “$10 less than comparable Kindle and Nook, making it the cheapest, smallest and lightest e-reading in the pack. Nicely motivates by projecting both the fun and sport of reading. Faux-quilted plastic back sacrifices ergonomics. Touch screen is sometimes slow.”
Nook Touch Reviews
Engadget — “The new Nook is a bit of an enigma, in a sense, simultaneously adding more features while attempting to return to the simple reading experience missing from tablets like the iPad and Nook Color. It succeeds on both accounts. All of the new features enhance rather than detract from the goal of reading, and they’re there when you want them and mostly invisible when you don’t. The social functions are about reading and reading alone — if you’re looking for a place to play Words with Friends, look elsewhere.”
TechCrunch — “After a few days with the new Nook I was hooked. It is a pure reading experience condensed into a device the size of a paperback and with a super-crisp e-ink touchscreen. The Nook is, in short, the best e-reader from a major player I’ve used thus far and is well ahead of its competitors in terms of usability and form factor.”
PCMag — “Thanks to plenty of upgrades and a laser-sharp focus on the reading experience, the second-gen Barnes & Noble Nook Touch Reader is our new Editors’ Choice for ebook readers.”
PCWorld — “I can’t say that the Nook is the absolute best e-reader available today, but it comes close. Nook gets marked down for its terrible button design and inconsistent contrast; and yet, it wins favor for its interface and touch navigation. Those factors, coupled with its light weight and long battery life rating, make Nook a solid choice, as long as you plan to use the touchscreen and not the buttons to page through your books.”
ZDNet — “This is a stripped, bare basics version of the Nook that would be ideal for students and anyone else on a budget.”
Wired — “By now, most everyone in your circle of friends has played with a Kindle and an iPad. Fewer have picked up a Nook. But I’d urge you to give this dark horse a shot.”
Amazon Kindle Reviews
Engadget — “If you’ve ever played with a Kindle, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the fourth-generation is one solid device. The hardware is well made, the processing is snappy and the screen is extremely easy to read. It is, however, sorely lacking in the bells and whistles department, with a renewed, almost one-track focus on reading.”
TechCrunch — (Video) “The first device Jeff Bezos showed off at today’s Amazon event was the diminutive Kindle Touch, a $99 e-ink device that should be on everyone’s Christmas lists this year. The Touch has an 6-inch, IR-based touchscreen and includes all of the features found in the ne Kindle models including the new X-Ray feature that adds research and information to any book downloaded from the Kindle store.”
PCMag — “The new Amazon Kindle rings in at a bargain $79 price, establishes the new class standard for affordable ebook readers, and still features the best ebook store on the market.”
PCWorld — This is a very simple overview for the 3rd generation. I could not find one for the current 4th generation models.
CNet — I couldn’t find a review specific to the newest Kindle models. This link gives you a list of all related Kindle reviews on CNet.
Wired — “Amazon’s new Kindles bring an updated hardware design to its family of popular black and white e-readers. There are different configurations — touch and non-touch, Wi-Fi-only, and 3G cellular data-enabled — all being sold at different prices, and all of them cheaper than the $200 Kindle Fire tablet. They’re made for people who don’t want the tablet; those who just want to read comfortably in a way they’ve grown familiar with, thank you very much.”
Sony Reader WiFi Reviews
Engadget — “There’s a lot to like about this new guy. The WiFi Reader has a lot of compelling functionality, including dual-touch pinch to zoom, handwritten note taking, audio playback and built-in access to public library and Google Books content. At $149.99, it’s also quite reasonably priced for a Sony reader, down $30 from the Sony Reader Pocket Edition (which, it’s worth noting, failed to include WiFi).”
TechCrunch — “Will the T1 do the impossible and overthrow Amazon and BN’s hegemonic hold on the eReader market? In all honestly, probably not, but a functional and stylish alternative can help keep innovation alive and the big guys on their toes.”
PCMag — “Sony finally comes down to earth with the Reader Wi-Fi, a $150 ebook reader that compares well with the B&N Nook Touch and upcoming Amazon Kindle Touch.”
PCWorld — “Price and design are the two biggest factors driving the e-reader market; and in the past, Sony severely dragged its feet on the former. But today the company has rectified the situation with the introduction of the newest Sony Reader Wi-Fi PRS-T1.”
ZDNet — “While there’s no compelling reason to buy it over the Kindle Touch, the Sony Reader Wi-Fi is a very solid e-reader.”
Wired — Does not currently seem to have a review of the WiFi T1 model.
Amazon has rocked the eReader and tablet world today by announcing Kindle Fire and releasing some new Kindle eReader models at extremely low prices.
You can check out Amazon’s charts that compare the different devices for yourself (look at ‘Compare Kindles’ on a page like this), but I want to go over what I consider the main differences between them.
The basic Kindle is starting at $79 (with special offers) or $109 without special offers. $79 is a pretty darn low price for an electronic device, but more importantly, it’s way lower than most other eReaders. The new Sony Reader WiFi, for example, is available for pre-order right now for $149. Even if you don’t want the ‘special offers’ screensaver ads, you only have to go up to $109.
It’s also important to note that this device does not have a touch screen. Navigation is done with the button at the bottom-center.
Kindle Touch / 3G
This is similar to the basic Kindle, but with a touch screen. It is either $99 with special offers, or $139 without special offers. You could compare this one to the Nook Touch. It also has audio capabilities.
The next step up is the Kindle Touch 3G at $149 with special offers or $189 without. These models will let you connect to 3G networks, like you do with your cell phone, to get internet access even when you can’t get on WiFi.
All of the Kindle models work with Amazon’s cloud system, which means that you don’t have to download ebooks to your computer, and you can easily use your digital content on multiple devices that you own.
This is the biggest news. There has been speculation about a Kindle tablet for a long time. Amazon has announced a tablet-like Kindle device, and it’s available for pre-order for only $199.
One of the things that has been wondered for so long was whether Amazon would be able to release a device that would be a competitor for the Apple iPad. This cnet article says they have, but I don’t know if I agree. Since this is a smaller device at 7″ and lacks many of the features of the iPad, in my opinion it’s more comparable to the Nook Color. Both of those devices are more like big brothers to eReaders. They have the color touch screens and run on Android, which means you can watch videos and play games, so in the end they are eReaders with some additional fancy features.
On the other hand, that cnet article points out something very important: if you’re an average user who’s using these devices for typical stuff like reading, video streaming, and basic internet access, you don’t need an expensive iPad. And on top of that, if you’re going to be traveling with the device it feels a lot better to tote around a $199 tablet rather than one that cost you $500+.
I think it will come down to what you actually need to use the device for. If you will actually use additional features that the iPad has (like Bluetooth, video conferencing, or HD video recording) you might be willing to spend the money for those. But if you’re the average user, something like the Kindle Fire might be perfect.
I’m going to be really interested to find out how open the Android OS will be on this device. If you can install Aldiko Book Reader on it, that will mean that you won’t be tied down to the Kindle store anymore, and you’ll be able to get ebooks from other websites. I suspect that it won’t be possible to install other ebook apps in the beginning, but people will find a hack-around for it.
The other big question is how this is going to affect the market for eReaders as a whole. These new Kindles are being sold at such a low price that other companies might not be able to compete at all. Or, it might force companies to find ways to use cheaper materials to build these devices. It will be interesting to see how everyone reacts to this.
PCMag’s 2011 Readers’ Choice Awards for Tablets and eBook Readers was posted last month, but I just now ran across it. Some of their results are what I would have expected, but some of the data was pretty surprising to me.
It’s no surprise that the Apple iPad was chosen as the favorite. What did shock me was that the Asus Eee Pad Transformer was also chosen as a top pick. I’ve never even seen one of these sold in a store. I knew that these devices existed but I didn’t think that anybody actually used them, because as someone who provides tech support for this category of devices, nobody has ever asked me a question about them. It seems like it could be a cool device to own because of its flexibility … maybe it’s just being overshadowed by the larger companies?
A quote from the article: “If you needed any evidence that Amazon and Barnes & Noble are the leaders in ebook readers, look no further than our Readers’ Choice scores. They far outscore the other ebook reader manufacturers: Sony and Pandigital, the only others we got enough responses to include.” (emphasis mine)
Apparently they let people fill in their own answers, and almost everyone wrote in Amazon Kindle or B&N Nook. The only other devices that people mentioned often enough for PCMag to get enough data for were the Sony Reader and Pandigital Novel. I’m not doubting their data, but I find this hard to believe. There are about a zillion different eReader devices available and some are quite popular, like the Kobo eReader or BeBook. It seems quite odd to me that at least the Kobo didn’t get enough mentions to be included. It’s not surprising that the Kindle and Nook were the most popular, for the same reason mentioned in the article: they are tied to previously established bookstores. Most people will buy eReaders from those companies because they are already shopping at those stores.
Check out the article‘s second and third pages for charts.
What is your choice for best tablet or eReader? Anything besides the iPad, Kindle, or Nook?
Earlier this week Google announced their “own” eReader device. They have commandeered the iriver Story HD, which has already been around for a while, and added some built-in Google Books functionality to it, and are now going to be selling it at Target for $139.99.
Before this, you could use ebooks from Google on your computer or many devices (iOS, Android, etc) by downloading the ebook and then sending it to the device. This is different because you can use the iriver Story to wirelessly download ebooks directly to the device.
According to the Google blog post, this is just the beginning. They’d like more eReader developers to work in WiFi access to Google Books on their devices as well.
A while back I tested the Google eBooks system and wrote a post with details about it. I liked how it worked. I read a book or two in the Google Books app on my iPhone and was pleased with it. It would be useful to be able to download ebooks directly to an E-Ink eReader if you were already doing most of your e-reading on that type of device.
I think it would be great if eReader manufacturers could add this into already-existing devices, perhaps in firmware updates. That way people could choose to make use of their current downloading system as well as Google Books. I doubt they will do that right away since that would reduce any need for buying this iriver device, but perhaps it will happen a little later on.
I made a new Squidoo Lens: Tablet Comparisons. This one is similar to the eBook Reader Comparisons lens, but obviously about tablets instead. It lists tech specs on each tablet so that you can reference them all in one place, hopefully making it useful as a shopping guide.
Right now the tablets covered are: iPad 2, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom, Blackberry Playbook, Toshiba Tablet, and BeBook Live.
I plan to keep it updated as new tablets come out and as new models are released for the current available tablets. If you know of a new tablet that should be included, feel free to leave a comment to suggest one (either here or on the lens itself). Sometime soon I’ll be updating the eBook Reader Comparisons lens to include the new eReaders that I wrote about in my last post.
As I’ve mentioned before, this blog is mostly about software but sometimes I think it’s useful to write about related hardware. (Generally only hardware that can run ebook software, such as eReaders, tablets, and mobile phones.)
There have recently been some new eReaders released and some price drops that I wanted to share with you.
This is old news already, but Amazon has released a new version of the Kindle called “Kindle with Special Offers”. It’s the same as the Kindle WiFi model, but $25 less at $114. Coupons and discounts are displayed in the form of screen savers and along the bottom of the home screen. They are designed to not interrupt your reading at all.
Depending on the offers, they might actually be useful for you. You can get discounts on Kindle ebooks, Amazon Gift Cards, and other products sold at Amazon like HDTVs, for example.
Personally, I don’t know whether I’d get this model or not. It could end up saving you some money if you wanted the offers being given. Or it could just end up being annoying. One of the things I like about reading a book is that it is not online, and not involved in ads.
Barnes & Noble has released a new version of the Nook: a smaller device with a touch screen. It’s available for pre-order right now, and the price is $139.
My impression is that this Nook is aimed at non-techy people. Its almost-square size makes it cute, and they seem to be really pushing it as an easy to use device. This is in contrast to the Nook color, which they’re billing as “the reader’s tablet” since it runs on the Android OS and even now has apps available.
Meanwhile, the original Nook has been pushed to the bottom of the screen, called the “NOOK 1st Edition”, and has had its price dropped to $119.
The Nook Touch looks like a fun eReader, especially for those who don’t want a tablet. It’s a good price, too.
Similarly, Kobo now has a touch-screen version available. It’s also more square than the older models, but not as much as the Nook Touch. It has WiFi and all of the other features that the other Kobo eReaders have. It is available for pre-order from Borders for $129 (and other retailers).
The page of specs says that it comes with 15 ebook previews for free. I wonder if that means it does not come with the 100 free pre-loaded books like the older Kobo models. That was one of the things I found most endearing to the Kobo company.
Kobo also now has a “Reading Life” app, which apparently tracks your reading habits, lets you share things on Facebook, and earn rewards. Sounds kind of like one of those grocery store clubs to me, and I wonder if they will mostly be using it to gather data on what to sell you. But it could be interesting in any case.
Both the BeBook Neo and BeBook Club eReaders have gone on sale at eBookMall.com. The Neo has dropped down to $199 and the Club to $169. Plus the Club now comes with a free case, which they say is a $30 value.
I have a BeBook Neo and I like it quite a lot, especially with ePub ebooks. The Neo does have a touch screen, but it’s not the finger-swiping kind. It comes with a stylus that you use to tap on the screen. It was released before these touch screens became as popular as they are now. The stylus method that it has works well enough because it at least means that you don’t have to navigate through the screens with the buttons.
I don’t know as much about the Club, but it does have all of the same features that are now standard on eReaders, and it was designed to cost less than the Neo.
All of this activity in the eReader department makes me wonder if my previous impression of the market was incorrect. It might turn out that there are plenty of folks who want a dedicated e-reading device, and don’t want a full tablet. Either way, I am glad to see that there is still so much interest in eReaders, and that people are reading in general.
The other day I was in Best Buy and I happened to walk through their display of e-readers and tablets. To be totally blunt: the e-readers looked very sad, boring, and even outdated.
It’s not their fault. E-readers are great devices that are really good at what they do. The problem is that they are paling in comparison to tablets, which can function just as well as e-readers while doing a million other things in full color. Next to that, an e-reader with its black & white E-Ink display sort of looks like you’re seeing some piece of technology from the 1950’s.
I’ve written some articles about the differences between tablets and e-readers, such as my Tablet vs eReader Squidoo lens. In my opinion, whether you choose a tablet or e-reader really just depends on what you need from the device.
If all you want is a simple device for reading ebooks, then an e-reader will be fine. The E-Ink screen will also save you a massive amount of battery time, compared to a tablet. E-Ink was created specifically for reading, mimicking text-on-paper, so it can be easier on your eyes than an LCD screen. And, of course, a huge difference between e-readers and tablets is the price. At the Best Buy I was in, they had the Motorola Xoom priced at $799. You can get a Kindle for $129 nowadays.
But then the big question for a shopper is: if I’m going to buy a tablet-style device, why buy one that only reads ebooks when I can get one that I can use for books, games, internet, video, email, apps, etc? The extra cost is reflected in the additional functionality, and they’re not all as expensive as nearly $800.
Modern e-readers, especially the Kindle, did an awesome thing for ebooks. eBooks have been around for 10-15 years but only became mainstream when Amazon managed to make Kindle a household name. In that sense, e-readers have fulfilled their purpose, and done a good job of it.
Now it seems that Amazon will be releasing a tablet, according to this article and others. Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color is already partially a tablet, and I’ve read that they might be coming out with a new device that might be more tablet-like. BeBook has just released a tablet called the BeBook Live, which runs on Android. It’s not yet available in the US, but it’s selling for $279, which really helps in the affordability department.
It also looks like the makers of mobile phones are scrambling to offer tablet devices. Blackberry is now running commercials for their Playbook tablet. We already have the Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab, and of course, the iPad, which everyone is trying to compete against.
Personally, I am torn at the moment. I prefer to read from a device that is back-lit, like a tablet. However, I would not spend more than about $300 for this type of device since they’re not quite full computers and I already have a phone that does most of the same things, albeit on a smaller screen.
If you haven’t already seen it, check out this article about 10 Memorable Milestones in Tablet History.
Sony recently announced that it would be releasing an app for iPhone and Android that would allow Sony Reader eBooks to be read on those devices. This type of software has already existed for the Kindle and Kobo ebooks for a while, so it’s a smart idea for Sony to release something similar. I have been meaning to write a post about those options, and this announcement from Sony reminded me about it.
This is a great way for these companies to be able to sell content (ebooks) to customers who don’t actually own an ebook reader. I know that there must be plenty of people who would be interested in trying out an ebook for the Sony Reader, Kindle, or Kobo, without having to actually buy one of those devices. With these apps, you can buy an ebook from any of these companies and read it on hardware that you already own. Below are details on exactly what kind of software you can use.
Sony’s announcement said that the apps for iPhone and Android would be available in December, but I don’t see them on Sony’s website quite yet. Right now you can get apps for both Windows and Macs. They’re calling it “Reader Library Software” and you can use it to buy ebooks or borrow ebooks from your library.
If you don’t want to buy a Kindle but you do want to take advantage of the convenience of Kindle eBooks, you can get the free Kindle App for Windows, Mac, Blackerry, iPad, iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone 7. The Kindle itself provides a better reading experience with its E-Ink screen because your eyes won’t suffer the strain of reading from an LCD screen. But, like I said above, it’s a useful way to try out an ebook if you’re not yet sure if you want to buy a Kindle. Plus, you can use these apps to share your Kindle ebooks between your devices.
Kobo also covers a lot of different devices with their free reading app: iPhone, Blackberry, Android, and Palm Pre smartphones, iPad and presumably other tablets in the future, and both Windows and Mac desktops.
This kind of cross-platform versatility makes ebook reading seem a lot more appealing. I think that it removes some of the fear that a lot of people have that they’ll be locked into reading a book on specific device, and might lose it if they upgrade that device in the future, or decide to starting reading on something else instead. It also gives you the option of sharing an ebook between different members of your family — for example, you could put an ebook on your e-reader, and also on your spouse’s iPhone. It’s also a good way for these companies to get customers to become familiar with their products. Once trust is developed they might be more likely to buy the e-reader.